Sequence: The Heron’s Foot (part four)
West side people keep to themselves. My neighbors know me to be bad-tempered and unsociable. Also, they are unimpressed by my particular sort of fame. Like Harvey Planter, they have opinions about the theater. I doubt anything less than a conflagration—and that is not guaranteed—would induce one of them to knock at my door.
On the other hand, I have an acquaintance or two on your end of town, whom I would rather avoid. Rica Bullard (wrongly) considers me a friend. She has got herself arrested (at Harvey’s!), and would insist on telling me everything.
I hope, therefore, that you will agree to be my guest. Come at three o’clock any afternoon. I am always home at that hour.
p.s. You understand, Van Nest, I have a private matter to discuss with you. I will not be serving lunch or tea.
A pronounced slant, as the graphology ginks had it, was a sign of forceful personality. In that case, Van Nest supposed, the facile interpreter would call Boardman a man at war with himself. He didn’t know if Boardman wrote his plays on a typewriter. But he was about to visit―he would learn at first-hand what Boardman took pride in and was eager to show, and what Boardman was embarrassed by, and hoped to conceal.
As to lunch, Van Nest had long since eaten. The hour was a quarter to two, and Van Nest, who began his day at four a.m., was an eleven-thirty man when it came to the mid-day meal. He’d got Boardman’s note in the morning mail, and in fifteen minutes, meant to be in a taxi. He lounged, for the moment, weighing which would give more value—surprising (annoying) Boardman by showing up early, or taking a stroll through Boardman’s neighborhood, throwing out howdies to those he met on the street. (He did, in fact, say “howdy”—the reaction to this ruralism could be strong.)
Just now, he’d become intrigued by handwriting. Durco claimed professionals had been at work, and Van Nest figured that, in Durco’s case, what he said and what he kept to himself had more than casual significance. Durco, opening his office safe, had said also, “Sure, you guys look this stuff over. I don’t mind learning something new. But…it’s all a long time ago, now.”
The ransom notes (2) paper-clipped to the expert’s report, were judged to have been written by the same individual. The disguise was effective, but not cunning, the writer probably right-handed, composing with his left. The kidnapper’s note reflected, then, a business-like frame of mind, and small imagination.
What’s missing, Van Nest thought, is proof of the subject’s emotional state at the time of writing. You might dovetail the hocus-pocus with the science, if you had some means of verifying…
Zeda, making noise, pushed open the door, and with the suitcase in her hand, bumped it wider. She’d been away for the night, staying with relatives in Regisville. Van Nest, half-prone, looked at her over the sofa back. He picked up his coffee cup. He looked at her again, and she remained, stiffly posed at the threshold, her mackintosh wafting the smell of rain, her handbag clutched in a white hand, her other hand, equally angry, gripping the suitcase’s handle.
The Heron’s Foot
(2016, Stephanie Foster)